Manipur got A grade on gender!
Can you believe Manipur got an A grade on a multi-indicator gender scorecard prepared by the Delhi Policy Group (DPG), a non-partisan Delhi-based research and advocacy group based on seven indicators – sex ratio, health, education, political representation, crimes against women, employment and decision making in 2013? The states and the Centre were given grades from A to J (one to ten) relative to their distance from an ideal score depending on the data collected from official sources. India as a whole got a D+ grade and an F on crime against women based on data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
I was happy when I read the report of the group that Manipur got an A grade and is placed above industrialised states like Gujarat, Punjab, etc., on the scoreboard. I also realised the fact that the wealth and prosperity of a state is not indicative of the status of women, sex-ratio and female health. But what I do not understand is how the female health of a backward state like Manipur could even manage to get a higher score than that of a richer state.
Delhi (Sheila Dikshit was the chief minister) got a G while Gujarat (Narendra Modi was the chief minister) a D. Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya were the top-ranked states with an A+ grade followed by Himachal Pradesh and Manipur with an A and Kerala with an A-. Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir were at the bottom with Delhi with an overall grade of G.
According to the scorecards, Madhya Pradesh had the highest number of rapes while all states reported rising rates of crimes against women and falling conviction rates. Since the DPG conducted their research based on the official sources available on all the states and the Centre, we cannot doubt their findings. Almost all the states of India are not safe for women and the state governments have failed to prevent violence against women. Everyday newspapers carry reports of rape and murder of young girls in different parts of the country.
Interestingly, all states have between 33 per cent and 50 per cent female local body representatives as seats have been reserved for women in local body elections even though India continues to have one of the lowest rates of female political participation. We have seen active participation by women in local body elections in the last one or two decades and thought this participation would result in women playing a major role in decision making. But we are yet to witness a new political trend where women would have their say. We might expect a remarkable change or participation when women politicians can have the trust of the people.
Undoubtedly, people will react differently to the scorecards of the Delhi Policy Group which have given an A grade on gender to the southern and north eastern states of India. We all know that most parents and families still prefer a son to a daughter in Manipur but we do not hear about female foeticide which is rampant in some of the states of the country. Perhaps, I am wrong or have no information on the real picture. But the recent rise in violence against women including small girls across the country is a serious concern for all of us.
What I find interesting in the scoreboard is the significant variations between states in the proportion of women judges in high courts, from a low of 3.1 per cent in Andhra Pradesh to a high of 16.7 per cent in Rajasthan and Delhi. Manipur too do not have many women judges. We need more of them considering the increase in the number of crimes against women.
The lack of participation of women in decision making is still a serious concern for all of us. Only when women have a voice in the decision-making process we may see an immense change in our lives. I have a mixed feeling about the report of the Delhi Policy Group. One might argue how can the situation in Manipur improve when women have a voice in the decision making process when most families prefer a male child to a female child. Here I am not talking only about the prevention of violence against women. I am talking about the gradual growth of the state where women will play a major role in decision making.
Let us try to get an A grade on development, education, health, political representation, employment and decision making. NGOs working for women empowerment in Manipur need to find innovative solutions to problems facing the women by making them participate in different projects.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com).